Water blocks dried up
Rajasthan High Court on May 6, 2010 asked the state government to spell out its strategy to meet the water crisis in the
state. The directive came during the hearing of a PIL filed by one Poonam Chand Bhandari on April 12. According to the
petitioner, out of 237 blocks in the state, 207 were in the dark zones while only 30 blocks have groundwater left.
According to the last survey conducted by the state government in 2008, only 30 water blocks out of 237 in the state are left in
safe category, while 164 are under over- exploited category and 34 are in critical state. Banswara, Sriganganagar and Dungarpur
districts have all the water blocks (8, 7 and 5 blocks respectively) in safe category. All the water blocks in Chittorgarh, Bhilwara,
Dausa, Jalore and Rajsamand are in the over-exploited category. In
the state capital, 12 water blocks out of 13 are over exploited while one is in a critical category.
The cattle owners in Rajasthan are also facing acute shortage of water, as the water bodies have dried up here. The problem has been aggravated because of a drought like situation in
26 out of 32 districts of Rajasthan. Water is not even there in the tube wells all
of them are totally dry,
With the water crisis worsening in the desert state of Rajasthan
, the state government is now focusing on community-based water management
solutions instead of predominantly engineering-based ones. In its recently announced water policy, the state government has shifted its
focus towards community- level empowerment and responsibility for water
management under the umbrella process of Integrated Water Resources Management.
The government has chosen nine blocks - three each in Jodhpur , Nagaur
and Churu districts -- to implement a pilot project. "Ground water situation is quite alarming in the state with only 30 water blocks
out of total 237 left in safe zone. Since water is limited, there is a need to
manage water very intelligently which is not possible without active and direct
involvement of citizens," N S Satsangi, chief engineer (quality control and external aided projects), state water resource planning department, said in Jaipur.
"Every measure to educate people and ensure their participation in water
conservation and water management will be taken across the state," he said.
For this, initially, Water User Groups of 20 local people each will be formed at
every Gram Sabha level. WUG members will be trained for water management by NGOs
European Union Ambassador Daniele Smadja had recently announced reinstatement of
a grant of Rs 450 crore (Rs 4.5 billion) for water-related projects in the state.
During the current financial year, Rs 100 crore (Rs 1 billion) would be spent on
water campaign and for hiring services of experts. Under the policy, measures will be undertaken to make communities aware of their
legal entitlements, rights and responsibilities in respect of water resources
management at community level, and NGOs would be fully involved in water
management related activities. Preservation of traditional water harvesting structures and sources will be
encouraged and roof-top rain water harvesting, storm-water harvesting, recycling
and reuse of waste water will also be promoted.
In rural areas of women are spending increasing amounts of time and energy
traveling long distances to get water. In some dry regions of
Rajasthan, they spend as much as four hours a day and walk an average six km for water.
Water is the basic need of Rajasthan
Water is life not only in Rajasthan but the whole country. Otherwise how else would one explain water
related unrest in whole country, riots breaking in
Rajasthan farmers, or the large-scale migration that is currently taking place in desiccated
Rajasthan? This colourless, odourless, and tasteless liquid is essential for all forms of growth and development
Ė humans, animals and plants. And if this basic need is not met, then all hell can break loose. Helpless, drought-hit districts of
Rajasthan have little choice other than to pray for the success of the administrationís desperate attempts to strike new sources of drinking
water. The drought is causing social concern, as there have been reports of
drinking water shortage all over in Rajasthan region. Water scarcity is now the single biggest threat to food production, as falling groundwater levels make less water available for agriculture.
The United Nations Environment Programme warns that the world today is faced with a water crisis that is life
threatening. Its report on water released recently says that unlike the energy crisis, water crisis can mean the difference between
life and death. To quote: ``Without sustainable water management to ensure that there are sufficient supplies of clean, safe, water, the health of ecosystems and those who depend on them,
especially people, suffer''. Shortage of potable water is restricted not just to urban areas; the problem is worse in villages and hamlets where lack of water means no crops and hence, no food. Currently, a severe drought
threatens several Indian states - Rajasthan, Gujarat , and even Maharashtra , an advanced industrialised state. Indeed, as many as 19 districts in Maharashtra are badly affected and
villagers have been forced to depend on water supplied through official water tankers. Reports suggest that because of the huge demand-supply gap, village elderly are having to do with not more than one glass of drinking water through the day.
Unclean water causes environmental, economic and social costs. Water-diviners'
services were traditionally commissioned by rural folk to help find groundwater. Today, water tables are receding to such low levels, far below the ground, that
tube wells to pump up this water have to be sunk even deeper to access whatever little is available. In many areas, a surfeit of
tube wells have been installed as per mandatory government procedure. However, all of these only add to the grimness of the drought-ridden landscapes: Parched soil, rotting carcasses, dry farms and defunct water pumps. While we search
for clean, potable water, it is equally important to conserve the water we already have - by minimising wastage and by scientific storage. With the summer having set in, this becomes all the more imperative. A simple, easily accessible, inexpensive and proven method of collecting potable water is
through rainwater harvesting - both at the individual and at the community level. Sustainable management of water catchment areas is already a well known solution. It involves forest preservation and prevention of effluent pollution in the area.
Since water is a key resource and we can never create more water, water
management deserves priority in the development and preservation of any area.
"Everybody loves a good drought'', wrote P Sainath who described relief as the teesra fasal"
or the third crop that goes into the pockets of middlemen. The answer clearly is localised community water
management together with the revival of traditional irrigation systems. In other words, a people's movement
that will not wait for the government to take proactive action